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Fletcher and Bessie ElliottIt’s Friday again and that means it’s time to find out what really happened or only happened in mine and Christy’s imagination. This week we’re up to Chapter Five: She looks like she was inside the outhouse when the lightning struck.

This chapter deals with the first time Bessie meets Fletch at her Uncle Robert’s farm while she helps with the molasses making and I can tell you there’s not much about it that is true except the fact that Bessie did indeed have an uncle named Robert. Was he a farmer and did he have a farm in Walnut (the next town over from Hot Springs)? Honestly, we don’t have any idea. We found the names of Mama’s family in the Census report for 1880 and when the time came to introduce Fletcher into the story, we decided to have him working on Uncle Robert’s farm. The rest of Uncle Robert’s family (his daughter Caroline, wife Nell, and two more children) is entirely fictional–at least as far as we know!

As for the most important part of the chapter, Bessie meeting Fletcher and her instant attraction to him, that’s about 50/50. From everything she and Daddy told us over the years, the instant attraction was true, as well as Fletcher’s quiet, unassuming manner. In fact, the story we heard most often about the two of them meeting was Bessie saw him at the sawmill when she was walking home from school one day and liked his looks. She told us he was very shy and she was determined to make him talk to her. Obviously, she was successful. Oh, and she really liked the fact that she was his first girlfriend!

So, there you have it; Chapter Five, a few tidbits of fact mixed with quite a lot of fiction.

Hot Springs Resort, the Bluff Mountain Festival is held annually in the field to the left.

Hot Springs Resort, the Bluff Mountain Festival is held annually in the field to the left.

Christy and I were at the Bluff Mountain Festival in Hot Springs over the weekend and we had a wonderful time. We met quite a few people who had read the book and they had a lot of really nice things to say about it. Needless to say, we enjoyed that a lot! While we were there we started talking about Fact or Fiction Friday and realized that as we go through the chapters, we’re going to be running into spoiler territory pretty soon. We definitely don’t want to give anything away! We haven’t yet decided how we’re going to handle that but hopefully we’ll come up with a solution before we get that far. Any ideas and/or suggestions are welcome!

Chapter 4:  “Be like the old lady who fell out of the wagon.”

Although this is a short chapter, it’s important in that it introduces Bessie’s brother Thee’s namesake and shows a bit of Bessie’s spirit. It involves the fight between Papa’s deputy, Theodore Norton, and a Yankee visiting Hot Springs over Mr. Norton flirting with the Yankee’s wife.

Fact: Theodore Norton was an actual person and Papa’s deputy as well as good friend.  Bessie’s brother Thee was named for Mr. Norton. As children, Cyndi and I came to know Thee as Pap Daniels.

Gentry HardwareFact: One of the characters, Mr. Gentry, is the actual name of the man who owned Gentry Hardware. Today, his descendent Keith Gentry owns and runs the same store. When we visited, Keith pointed out his hardwood floor is the actual floor from the Dorland Institute Bessie attended over 100 years earlier. If you ever visit Hot Springs, be sure to drop by. It’s a charming place to browse and filled with charming crafts.

Fact: Mr. Norton liked the ladies and was a flirt, which eventually led to his death.

Fiction: The fight. We’re sure Mr. Norton dealt with his share of jealous husbands although we don’t know if it ever came to fisticuffs.

Fiction(?): Bessie liked to watch fights. We’re not sure if she did or not but Bessie was a spirited girl so it wouldn’t be a surprise if she did.

Fact: Bessie loved it when Papa would say, “Damn, Bess,” his way of addressing her behavior at times.

Fact: Bessie was close to her Papa and loved him deeply.

Fiction(?): Bessie keeps Papa on a pedestal for most of the book and we’re not sure if this is true or not but something we’ve gleaned from the stories Daddy tells us about Bessie and Papa.

Chugged full – an old southern saying that means full and/or overflowing with happiness.

Chapter three starts with Bessie and Papa getting ready to leave on a business trip to Paint Rock. Papa needs to see a man about a horse…wait, no that’s wrong, he needs to see a man about doing some repair work on a house. There are several places in this chapter when fiction crosses fact but for the most part, it’s all 100% true and it’s based on my favorite story when I was a kid: Bessie dancing in her red dress in a saloon in Paint Rock. I always wished I had the courage and confidence to do something like that!

Shelton Laurel Massacre Historic Marker

Shelton Laurel Massacre Historic Marker

Okay, so the story is true, but Christy and I did take a few liberties with the facts. For instance, the story Papa tells Bessie about the Shelton-Laurel Massacre which is well-documented and well-known here in western North Carolina. All of that happened, there really was a Colonel J. A. Keith who lined those men and boys up and had his soldiers shoot them, and they really did leave them on the bank of the creek, some of them buried but most of them just lying on top of the ground. And the families really did come the next day and buried them.

The liberties came with Bessie imagining she hears the Melungeon boogie-man. As Christy told you last week, parents were prone to threaten their children back then with an imaginary character of Melungeon descent but we have no idea if Bessie or Papa or even Mama knew of such a made up monster, much less if it played a part in their lives. We used it at this point to give Papa a reason to tell the Shelton Laurel Massacre story and of course, because that’s one of the major themes of the book; the persecution of people who are different in some way.

The part about Bessie dancing at the saloon while wearing a new red dress is true but we had to use our imagination to fill in the description of the saloon. We also made up the…shall we say, ladies-of-the-evening. We have no idea if there was a player piano in the saloon, Daddy always called it just a plain piano. We do know that the saloon was in an old house on the main street that ran through Paint Rock but when we tried to find it, we had some trouble. Not much to the town of Paint Rock any more and I have a feeling there never was much–but the drive from Hot Springs was absolutely gorgeous, if a little harrowing at times!

John Warren Daniels (Papa)

John Warren Daniels (Papa)

And finally, we come to Papa and Bessie and their relationship. Neither of us remember our Great-great Grandpapa John but we remember Aunt Bessie talking about him. It was obvious, even as young children, she absolutely adored her Papa. And then we have the many stories Daddy’s told us. Daddy, whose real name is Raymond Earl, goes by John because as a young boy, he was always with his Grandpapa John and people started calling him “Little John.”  And I just noticed, looking at that picture of him, there’s a birt of family resemblance there. So, we never really knew him, but I think we came very close with his personality from the many stories we heard. Daddy always says he was a good-natured soul, always smiling and joking, and with more than his fair share of charm–and of course, a natural born storyteller–which he passed on to Bessie and then to Daddy, thank goodness!

I’ve been considering doing a post like this for a long time but never seemed to get around to it. I’m still not sure I’m fully into it but since Christy and I are in the process of transferring the paperback version of Whistling Woman to our control (which is causing some major frustration, I am not a happy camper right now!) I decided what better to do than add to my frustration by writing a blog post. Why should writing a blog post frustrate me, you ask. Well, I’m one of those bloggers whose brains won’t stay on a set track when writing a post. My mind tends to go off on tangents and my fingers always seem to follow right along. I often end up with a couple of thousand words that jump around like a grasshopper, landing here and there, and never quite getting to the point…

See? I’m doing it again when I should be introducing this post and getting on with what I want to say. So, here goes:

Christy and I have had several readers ask us which of the stories in Whistling Woman are fact and which are fiction. That’s not as easy to answer as you might think because we took liberties on almost every page of the story, weaving fact with fiction, reality with imagination, truth with…um, shall we say, little white lies. The one thing we never fiddled with was the historical facts. We researched them endlessly, going back time and time again to make sure we had them right. Also, the Cherokee legends and medicine were, to us, sacrosanct but of course, where the legends are concerned, who knows exactly what is truth and what is ficiton.

So, in an effort to enlighten our readers (who we totally love and are eternally grateful to!) I’m going to take the book chapter by chapter and hopefully (by the time Moonfixer’s is out at least), I’ll make it all the way through the book. That’s 22 chapters–Yikes!

Okay, the first chapter deals with Bessie sticking her finger into the bullet hole in the man Papa shot. Fact or fiction?

John Warren Daniels (Papa)

John Warren Daniels (Papa)

A little of both, Bessie did in fact stick her finger into a bullet hole in a man’s forehead and Papa did in fact shoot him, bring him home and put the body on the kitchen table until he could take it to Marshall in the morning. We heard that story quite a few times as children and I think it’s one of the reasons why we grew up thinking Aunt Bessie was the coolest person in our family–aside from our dad–and quite possibly it started the whole fascination with her stories and the desire to write them down before they were lost.The fiction part comes with the background information. Bessie was only around 10 years old when it happened (in the book we have her at 14) and neither she nor Daddy ever mentioned what it felt like when she did it. For that part, we went to friend and fellow author, David Hunter, who after marveling at the questions he gets from his friends, told us what it would feel like. Having never stuck our fingers in a bullet hole in a person’s forehead before, we have no idea if that part’s fact or fiction, but having no desire to actually check it out and verify it, we were willing to take David’s word for it.

A bit of backstory in the chapter tells about Bessie hating her name and changing it when she was eight years old. That part’s all true. She was named Vashti Lee at birth and she did hate the name (though she never said why) and she did in fact decide to change it when she was only 8 years old. The fiction comes with the reason she did so, and how she came by the name “Bessie.” As far as we know our Great-aunt Loney didn’t start calling her that when she was a baby leading her to take that name as her own.

Then there’s Elisi who is probably 90% fiction and 10% fact. Bessie’s great grandmother was indeed full-blooded Cherokee (making Bessie 1/4 and Christy and me 1/16) but we have no idea if she gathered wild plants and herbs as a way of making a living. We do know Bessie was familiar with some of the Cherokee medicine but we don’t know where she learned it or who taught it to her. And the name Elisi? That’s Cherokee for grandmother which is why we decided to call her that. We weren’t able to find her real name in the records nor were we able to verify the heritage but family history via Aunt Bessie tells us she was indeed full-blooded Cherokee and that she and her familly hid in the mountains to escape the Trail of Tears.

I think that covers the first chapter. All the characters in this one were real people (witness Papa’s picture above) but the stories, while based on fact, are laced with our imagination.

Did I forget anything? If I did, please leave a comment and I’ll address it next Friday. For now, happy Memorial Day everybody and amid all the cookouts, picnics and parades, don’t forget to honor all those who are currently serving or have served our country!

the world hasn’t ended which means I need to finish my Christmas shopping! Not that I thought it really would end but still, you never know, do you? And the day isn’t over yet so I think I’ll wait till tomorrow.

Anyway, with all the dire predictons about the end of the world, I spent the last couple of days doing something I enjoyed instead of cleaning house or shopping for Christmas presents: I’ve been researching and believe me, that is something I never thought I’d hear myself say…er, see myself type. I used to hate research so much that I avoided it if at all possible. I mean to the point that it impacted the type of books I wrote. Why write historical with all that nasty research when you can write paranormal and make all that stuff up?

John Warren Daniels

John Warren Daniels

But that changed when Christy and I started doing the research on Whistling Woman. I’m pretty sure it’s because we were researching people who we knew or people who, like that butterfly in the rain forest, may’ve only gently flapped their wing and it sent a ripple through our lives by way of our ancestors. People like our great-grandfather, John Warren Daniels, one of the main characters in Whistling Woman. Isn’t he a handsome devil? Whistling Woman was a four year labor of love and most of those four years were given over to research. We knew we had to get the background and historical facts right and so we buckled down with our computers or traveled to Hot Springs, Marshall, and various other points in Madison County and talked to a lot of people who were all very helpful.And now, we’re getting ready to do it all over again with Moonfixer, the second book in the Appalachian Journey series. Only this time, we’ll be traveling to the Broad River section of North Carolina and though we’ll still be walking in the footsteps of our ancestors, we’ll also be walking in places we’ve been before; Black Mountain, Old Fort, Stone Mountain, the graveyard at Stone Mountain Missionary Baptist Church (click the link for a wonderful picture of the church from the Majdan Family History page) where many of our characters are buried.

Strangely enough, I find myself looking forward to it–which is how I ended up spending what could’ve been the last two days of my life doing research. Who would’ve ever thought I’d enjoy every minute of it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christy and I will be at ArtiSUN Gallery & Marketplace in Hot Springs tomorrow, November 24, for their Holiday Open House. Come join us and get a head start on your holiday shopping. ArtiSUN carries a variety of art, crafts, and books, all by local artists. You’re sure to find something for everyone on your list!

Christy and I were in Hot Springs this past weekend for our first reading of Whistling Woman. We were lucky enough to stay in the Chestnut Log Cabin–thanks, Melanie, for accomodating us on such short notice!–and we met some incredible people while we were there.

Ike Lassiter greeted us when we arrived at the Hot Springs Welcome Center. Ike is the president of the Friends of the Hot Springs Library, and he’s a wonderful, kind man. We were nervous but he answered all our questions about how long to read and suggested several things we might want to talk about. He and his wife Sally even took us to dinner after the reading! Sally steered us to Penland & Son in Marshall and when we went on Saturday, the owner bought 5 copies of the book to carry in her store.

At the reading, we finally met Melanie Prater, the owner of the two cabins we stay in whenever we’re in Hot Springs, Trailside and Chestnut Log (our favorite!). Up until then, we’d communicated with Melanie through phone calls and e-mail and it was a definite pleasure to meet her in person. We stayed at Trailside the first time we went to Hot Springs to do the initial research on the book and then the next two times, we’ve stayed at Chestnut Log Cabin. It’s our favorite because it reminds us of our grandmother’s (Frances Ann or Jack as she was called in the family, Bessie’s youngest sister) house where we spent quite a bit of time as kids. It’s a lovely, cozy retreat that’s perfect for editing, plotting, or just sitting on the front porch watching the world go by.

Deb Linton, the first librarian we ever talked to at the Hot Springs library, was also there. Deb was a tremendous help on that first research trip to Hot Springs. She pointed us in all the right directions and invited us to the reunion of the Dorland-Bell Institute (Aunt Bessie’s alma mater) at the Dorland-Bell Chapel.

We also met Carol Dixon, an aspiring author herself, who was kind enough to arrange for us to meet Miss Hazel the next day. Miss Hazel is 90 years old and the unofficial Hot Springs librarian. Until a few years ago she used to take daily walks around the town and I can’t tell you how many people told us we needed to talk to her. Unfortunately, we always seemed to just miss her, so Carol called her on Saturday and arranged for us to go to Miss Hazel’s house. What a fascinating woman and a great pleasure to finally meet her!

After Miss Hazel, we walked around Hot Springs, checking to see how the book was doing in Bluff Mountain Outfitters (not sold out, but close!) and ArtiSun Gallery (sold half the copies they’d bought!). At ArtiSun, we met Kalynn Dresser who had liked the Whistling Woman page on Facebook just the week before. If you’re ever in Hot Springs, you have to go by ArtiSun to see the work of all the local artists, craftspeople, and of course, writers like us! You should also try their scones (I had raspberry)–melt-in-your-mouth-delicious!

On Sunday morning, we went to Smoky Mountain Diner for breakfast before heading home and who should come in but Ike and Sally. I have to tell you, we’re seriously thinking about hiring Sally as our publicist! She has some terrific suggestions and while we were at the diner, with Sally’s help, we sold three books!

All in all, it was a productive, fun weekend–and we can’t wait to go back! Hot Springs always gives both of us a feeling of homecoming, as if we’re visiting with long unseen family and friends. We’ll definitely miss it when we have to move our research trips to the Old Fort/Black Mountain area for the next book, Moonfixer…but it can’t be helped since that’s where the next part of Aunt Bessie’s life happened.

We have, however, decided we’ll definitely go back to Hot Springs and the Chestnut Log cabin to do the edits. We can’t give up our home-away-from-home or the wonderful friends we’ve made there!

Our apologies if we left out anybody. Our minds, even when working together, are not quite as sharp as they used to be. Plus, we were having such a good time, we forgot to even take pictures, much less notes!

Christy and I will be in Hot Springs tonight at the Hot Springs Welcome Center at 7:00. Can’t wait to meet all the people and share a little bit of Whistling Woman. Come join us!

Christy and I just spent three wonderful days in Hot Springs doing the final edits on Whistling Woman. We stayed at a lovely little cabin right on the Appalachian Trail and a short five-minute walk from town. Surrounded by trees, we read the manuscript out loud, made changes–there weren’t that many!–and enjoyed imagining Aunt Bessie walking down Bridge Street when she was a young woman. She was twenty-one when she moved with her new husband Fletcher Elliott to Old Fort where they lived with his parents until they’d saved enough money to purchase some land of their own. But that’s another story, or as Paul Harvey said, “the rest of the story!”

A few more pictures to give you a feel for the place!

   

   

 

Hmm…I guess I should’ve added captions. Going from the top row, left to right, that’s the cabin from the road, the front porch where we worked on the first half of the book, the dining room where we moved when the weather got cold the next day to do the second half of the book, the living room, the kitchen, and the little sun room.

The cabin was perfect and we both hope to go back when we start promoting the book. And, of course, the town of Hot Springs, as always, made us both feel as if we were walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. Not just Aunt Bessie, but Papa, Mama, Roy, Loney, Green, Thee, and Frances Ann, or Jack as my great-grandfather called her. They were all there back in the 1890’s and early 1900’s when the book takes place and every time we visit, it’s almost as if they’re standing there welcoming us home with open arms, especially Papa and Bessie.

Chasing the Brown Mountain Lights

Into the Brown Mountain Lights

Seeking the Brown Mountain Lights

Through the Brown Mountain Lightss

Brown Mountain Lights Book 1

Wise Woman

Appalachian Journey Book 4

Beloved Woman

Appalachian Journey Book 3

Moonfixer

Appalachian Journey Book 2

Whistling Woman

Appalachian Journey Book 1

Madchen, die pfeifen

Whistling Woman (German)

Les deces arrivant toujours par trois

Whistling Woman (French)

Christy Tillery French Cynthia Tillery Hodges